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Hydroponic tomato farming offers Juja youth better income

Ocholla tomato
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A group of five youths in Juja, Kiambu County who were previously into casual jobs that could earn them Sh500 a day have ventured into hydroponic tomato production, a practice that is currently earning them Sh240,000 gross income a season.

The youth who have now come together under Pumous Green Farm consisting of high school dropouts who upon finishing their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) decided to look for jobs in construction sites (mjengo) as they lacked fees to go to college.

“It has been a struggle looking for a living since we finished our form four. Going to mjengo was a game of luck because we could fail to secure a job for an entire day meaning no income while at the same time we had bills to settle,” said Taison Ocholla, the group leader.

However, this did last long. The young men would soon learn about a programme by KCB Group which seeks to train youths into entrepreneurship.

“We first knew about KCB’s support for the youth in 2017 through DREAMS a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which helps vulnerable youths by mentoring them in various business lines,” said Ocholla.

The NGO would get their details and forward to KCB for consideration in November 2017. After about a month they were lucky to among other trainees picked to undergo training by the bank.

“We were trained for three months, that is, from January-March 2018 at Miramar International College. The training was all about Hydroponic Farming Technology,” said Ocholla.

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After the training they were offered a loan of Sh850,000 by the KCB which they were to pay back from half of the profit they got per season of which failure to pay back the bank was to take back the screen house plus the crops therein.

From Sh850,000 they took Sh300,000 to buy one screen house of size 28 by 40 meters, Sh13,000 to buy tomato seedlings and the remaining amount was used in pipping, wiring and sourcing water for irrigation during dry season.

They, therefore, started their first production on 22nd December 2018 and the total production after harvesting was 30,000 kilos of tomatoes.

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Luckily enough, the group secured a supply tender with a food chain company which promised to buy their produce relieving them market hustle that many farmers especially starters go through.

“We supply our products to Sunvalencia Company which buys our tomatoes at a cost of Sh80 per kilo, that is, after the end of the season we get 240,000,” said Ocholla.

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This really motivated them since they were able to get a profit from their first attempt. Since then their production has never decreased but maintained in order to keep their market.

They are now planning to increase the number of screen houses in the near future.

“In future we are willing to start this project in Homa-Bay and Migori Counties since most of the farmers in these counties are not practicing this technology,” said Ocholla.

Caption: Taison Ocholla, Pumous Green Farm group leader at the group’s Juja farm during training by KCB. Photo courtesy.

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